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December 6, 2008 at 1:14 PM

Microsoft workers mourn Mumbai victims

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

More than 200 Microsoft workers, many with close ties to India, gathered Friday to pay tribute to the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Seattle Times reporter Charles E. Brown covered a candlelight vigil at Microsoft on Friday for victims of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

On a grassy sports field on Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond, more than 200 company workers, many of them expressing close ties to India, gathered to end the workweek in remembrance.

From the outset, Sandeep Singh, a Microsoft senior finance manager who, as a younger man, served his homeland as an Indian navy officer and National Defence Academy instructor, set the tone. The purpose of the gathering, he told the group, was to show solidarity against last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, where more than 170 people lost their lives and many more were injured.

The candlelight vigil was much like others around the globe.

“We are also here to pay homage to the brave officers, soldiers and security personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting the lives of many others,” Singh said.

A heinous act, he said. Not unlike the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

“This was not an attack on India alone. It was an attack on many nations, nationalities, religions, communities and, lastly, it was an attack on our freedom,” he said. “We, as Microsoft employees, strongly condemn this act of violence.

“This age will need our intelligence, our resolve and a strong character to dispel the notion that the terrorists are winning over us. We have to beat them at their game.”

Most of those gathered on the field just before dusk on Friday claim family and close friends in the Mumbai region and a familiarity with the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel and other sites targeted by suspected terrorists.

“All our hearts go out to the victims and their families,” Javed Sikander, a Microsoft group program manager, said to the group. “By coming together here, we are sending a message to extremists that their tactics aren’t working.”

The post-work gathering had the blessing of the workers’ employer. “Our employee population is as diverse as the world itself,” said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith, who heads the firm’s legal and corporate affairs.

“Given that diversity,” he said, “it’s especially appropriate for our company to create an opportunity to reflect and remember those who were heroes in Mumbai, some heroes who were victims, and some who were innocent bystanders who lost their lives.”

As dusk fell, the people at the gathering lit candles and observed two minutes of silence.

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